FILM REVIEW: FLASHBACKS OF A FOOL
FLASHBACKS OF A FOOL
Directed by Baillie Walsh
Starring Daniel Craig & Felicity Jones
Flashbacks of a Fool was released in 2008, directed by Baillie Walsh and starring Daniel Craig, Claire Forlani and Felicity Jones. It is the classic Odysseic story of the protagonist who returns home after several years; the one where he finds out that after all that time he has changed too much and he doesn’t belong there anymore. It deals with the themes of growing up, loss of innocence and nostalgia with a stunning realism, by having the characters look back to a time when everything was easier, and having them wonder about what might have been.
A washed-up Hollywood movie star, Joe, goes back to his native England to attend his best friend’s funeral. His flashbacks to when he was a teenager give us a glimpse of the events that propelled the rest of his life. We see his complicated relationship with Ruth, the girl he likes, his best friend Boots, and his next door neighbour Evelyn.
The cinematography is remarkable in the way it sets two very distinct settings, one in the 70’s and one in the early 2000’s, and blending them in one coherent visual expression of the story and characters. It is even more impressive if you consider the fact that this is director Baillie Walsh’s first feature length film. There is one scene that is particularly well-executed and holds the weight of the movies. When they are teenagers, Ruth invites Joe back to her house, where they listen to music. They dress up as David Bowie and Bryan Ferry and are shown dancing in slow motion to Roxy Music’s “If There Is Something”. We see that years later, both of these characters long for the time which this scene symbolizes, and feel homesick about it.
In Joe’s journey back we see how his hometown has changed. Ruth married Boots, who left her a widow, deep in debt. Joe meets Ruth alone and their submission to the inevitability of everything that has happened between them and where they find themselves now is heartbreaking. The performances by Craig and Jones are spot on in portraying the flip side of the famous scene where Ulysses is reunited with Penelope. Their conversation is short but cathartic, at least for Joe, who is relieved to know that, despite everything, she has had a good life. The ending is breathtaking in its power of portraying how Ruth’s character arch is fulfilled, largely due to Jones’ acting.
The movie is astonishing in the way it approaches themes of nostalgia, homecoming, and loss. In the final scenes, Joe tries to make amends and wants to show to Ruth how much their time together meant to him. Ultimately he realizes that he doesn’t belong there anymore and lets go of his past. Walsh has succeeded in bringing together a impeccable cast, which works in perfect harmony with the setting to bring this story to life, and the memorable soundtrack boosts the movie’s power to move the audience.